Phantasy Star Portable
D: Sonic Team/Alfa System
Platforms: Sony PSP
Preview date: February 9, 2009
Phantasy Star Portable Preview
If there was one console that was shifted to the sidelines last year, it had to be the Sony PSP. With only a few triple A exclusive titles, and the inclusion of Playstation Network access, the PSP failed to snap up new interests for new and existing consumers. However, with that being said, the console has unleashed one of the best selling modern franchises, Monster Hunter, which has stormed the Japanese sales, being just as popular as some of the Nintendo Wiiís big hits. Hopefully 2009 will be a turning point for the Playstation Portable, and leading the way is big exclusives such as Monster Hunter Unite and Resistance: Retribution. Another big hit that hasnít had much hype surrounding it is Segaís Phantasy Star Portable.
The only Phantasy Star title I had been acquainted in the past was Phantasy Star Universe, a Playstation 2 title that failed to earn my praise, as much of the game could only be accessed by subscribing to a minimal online community. However, the actual game itself seemed like a traditional JRPG, with a robust theme and exceedingly long lifespan. When I heard Sega was developing a portable version of the game for the PSP I canít say I was over the moon, but whilst browsing the Playstation Network, the demo caught my eye and I just had to sample the first of what 2009 has to offer on the Playstation Portable.
Phantasy Star Portable takes place in a futuristic fantasy universe, such as the one portrayed in the latest Final Fantasy games. A war has been raging throughout the universe between the four in-game races: Humans, Newman, Beasts, and the Cast. Portable takes place in the Gurhal Star System, many years after the war, in a time where the races live in unity fighting the common enemy, SEED. You play the role of a Guardian, the Star Systemsí unit of space protection. Itís your duty to protect innocence and to hunt down threats to the Star System. Your adventure begins in the Guardian Headquarters where you graduate after a series of missions.
Unlike most JRPGs, in Phantasy Star Portable, your character
The gameplay is split into several phases, firstly you will be navigating the map screens where you can collect missions, buy and sell items, or gather information. From the Guardian Headquarters you can access the mission counter, and from there you can travel to the mission field. However, before setting out you can either attack the mission by yourself or browse a list of available partners, building a party of up to 4 characters. Once your team is formed you can head out to the field where the actual game starts to play out.
On the field you will have a simple objective, to eliminate a group of enemies or to take down a boss monster. The gameplay changes from this point, and instead of navigating numerous chat screen, instead you will grasp a third person view of your character and the rest of the party. The mission field is divided into several zones, containing item boxes and enemies. You will already have a set number of weapons available, each with basic attacks allocated to the square button on the console. Using the Left trigger you can lock onto an enemy, allowing you to focus your attacks on a specific target, a key feature to using the hunter class. Defeating a creature will score experience points, and occasionally items which you can add to an in-game palette (inventory) accessible by holding down the circle button, allowing quick use of items instead of scrolling up and down item screens.
Also unlike many games of the same genre, the battles donít partake in a turn base style, instead all enemies are present
Apart from the story mode available in the game, a multiplayer mode is also accessible. However, the multiplayer mode is only available through Ad-Hoc mode, or by using the next Ad-Hoc Party system available with Playstation Network. In this mode you will be able to use one of your characters, with status and equipment included, and form a group with other players with which you can play a number of pre-set missions. This is where the game comes into its own, itís very much like playing an MMO, minus the subscription fees, and with a gameplay system that is so easy to pick up and play, Phantasy Star is bound to be a huge hit for the PSP. However, if not enough people hear about the game, itís bound to be another unspoken priceless title with a minute online community.
Phantasy Star Portable will heighten the bar of portable RPGs to come. I thoroughly enjoyed the demo and have already maxed out the level cap. Addictive is one word that can easily sum up my experience of the game and I will definitely be buying the full retail version on release. I strongly urge anyone with a PSP to sign into Playstation Network and download the demo.